We went to see McFarland, USA in the theaters the week it came out. That is very unusual for us; we don’t go to the movies often, and it is usually after undue amounts of harassment by my boys. Yet someone suggested this plan for a Saturday afternoon, and in a rare Mami moment I jumped on board. If I were going to go to the theater, I thought McFarland, USA is the type of film I would like.
I wasn’t wrong. Based on a true story, the movie starring Kevin Costner and a rather unknown crew of Hispanic actors combined two things I am passionate about: sports and social issues. I won’t spoil it for you as you can enter a giveaway at the bottom of this post. In a gist, McFarland, USA is the story of a group of low income immigrants who mostly work picking fields; they find cross country through the efforts of their Anglo American coach. The entire community rallies around the team who begins to win and find themselves competing for state champions. It’s the kind of feel good movie where you leave the theater and want to do something. Which is what I did.
So many parts of McFarland, USA spoke to me. From Danny Diaz who was always last and felt he couldn’t contribute to the team, to his mom who is the best example of community organizer EVER, I wouldn’t be able to write about it all here. The movie was the final push for me to put forth the Camillus House Running Team, composed of formerly homeless children as well as their affluent counterparts which you can read about here and here.
In the movie, the all Hispanic McFarland team of mostly underprivileged migrant workers compete in a meet with a team from Palo Alto, the heart of Silicon Valley and wealth. At the meet, they looked at each other: the McFarland Team with intimidation by the wealth and confidence of their more affluent counterparts, while the Palo Alto team with somewhat disdain for the less equipped group.
That was it. That was my inspiration, #MiInspiracion.
I lived in Palo Alto for two years, and in Brazil and Morocco for seventeen. I intimately know both of these worlds.
My boys race triathlons and are runners. I realized they are the Palo Alto team. They have everything they need to be as successful as they work for. They have good running shoes, nutrition, sleep, family support, and are not pressured beyond their maturity as seven and nine year olds.
The children who live at Camillus House are the McFarland team. They face all sorts of challenges above and beyond anything my kids have been through or can even comprehend. They have escaped domestic abuse, lost all of their belongings as they became homeless, and passed through shelters until they found stability at Camillus House. Through all this, they were expected to perform at school. How could we compare?
#MiInspiracion, my inspiration was this: what if we didn’t have the Palo Alto team and the McFarland team competing against each other? What if we created a different team composed of both types of children with completely different backgrounds?
My bet, my hope, is that the same way an entire community rallied behind the real McFarland cross country team the same will happen to us. And we want as many people as possible to see what we are doing in the hopes that they too will be inspired to go and do something of their own, just as I was watching McFarland, USA.
I asked Fearless what inspired him and really didn’t know what he was going to say. It looks like he was reading but he was not. Be awesome people … you have no idea what effect you have on others.
I knew Coach Lilly (who is my partner in the Camillus House project) had an effect on him, but I had no idea he cared about my third place. It was a small race, and the reason I got it was because the fast people weren’t there. But of all the things we have done, that is what he remembers.
But what if I fail? It’s not like I am following a well lit path here. It’s a social experiment and I am definitely putting myself on the line. Again, McFarland, USA gave me inspiration. These kids took a gamble that they could be the best cross country team in California against all odds. In an interview (see below) the real Thomas Valles, the team’s star runner who then became track coach of the McFarland High School says he learned you need to set goals but not be afraid of failure. Everyone fails at some point.
So many things could, and did, go wrong for the unlikely McFarland team. Yet they came together and overcame their obstacles with the help and support of their community. I am betting the same will happen to us. So far we have two separate teams … on June 15th they come together for the first time. And you know what we will do? We will watch #McFarlandUSA together … as a team, and use the movie as our motivator that dreams can come true.
If you want more of these doses of inspiration, check out the McFarland, USA Facebook page for lot’s of it!
Disclosure: No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited. Giveaway ends June 10th, 2015. Sole Sponsor: TriathlonMami, Inc. The prize was provided to me by Buena Vista Home Entertainment and I have been paid to blog and promote the film. Buena Vista Home Entertainment is not a sponsor, administrator, or involved in any other way with this giveaway. All opinions expressed in the post are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 ‘Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.’”